The Thousand Words

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Chapter 40

The fact of Jane being alive but being taken to the hospital was welcome news to hear, but still tore at my gut since she was unconscious and likely drugged. She was strong but no one deserved what happened to her, especially since she was simply near me and didn’t do anything wrong herself. Hopefully, she would fully recover and still be talking to me. I chuckled to myself thinking about how much shit Jane was going to give me about this.

“Is everything all right with you?” Bruno asked giving me a strange look at the same time. “You are not getting all loopy from the kick in the head, are you?”

“I’m fine. Just thinking of Jane and how much grief I am going to get over what happened to her. Do you think the guy kicked me in the head? It was dark and I didn’t really see it coming, to be honest.”

It was Bruno’s time to laugh. “I can see the print of his shoes on the side of your face. The mark is not dirt, by the way. It’s a bruise. Thank God you have a brick for a head. Let’s go get you some medical attention. No arguing or complaining. You are right about one thing, though. Jane is going to kick your ass when she is feeling better.”

He led me over to one of the paramedics who gave me a surprised look when she saw the side of my face, quickly regaining her composure. She sat me down on the curb and started to give me an exam.

“Is it that bad?” I asked.

“Just think of the stories you will be able to tell at the bar with your friends,” the paramedic said with a grin on her face. “Apprehending an escaping suspect from a police home storming operation. Stories don’t get much better. Women will be all over you even with a bruise on your face and a heroic story.”

“I’m already seeing someone,” I replied.

“Too bad,” she added, looking away for a moment. “Just so you know, the swelling is going to go down pretty quickly, but the bruising is going to get worse. Much, much worse. All of the colors of the rainbow will make an appearance at some point.”

“Wonderful,” I said to no one in particular.

The paramedic continued to perform a visual inspection of my injuries, including the bruises I suffered on my chest from the initial tackle and punches thrown by the escaping man.

Bruno walked back up after making a quick phone call and talked to the paramedic. “How is he doing? Any permanent damage? Do you need to cut off anything vital?”

She grinned back at him with a smile a person only gives to someone they know. “The bruises on his chest and side are superficial and should heal within a couple of days. Nothing a few over the counter pain pills and a strong drink can’t take care of. The blow he took to the side of the head does have me a bit concerned. A concussion for sure, but based on a visual examination of his head he doesn’t appear to have a cracked skull at all.”

“I am not worried. He just has a bunch of rocks up there,” Bruno added as if stating an unmistakable observation.

“Do you mind?” I asked Bruno knowing it would do absolutely no good whatsoever.

“My recommendation is he gets taken to the hospital for a quick x-ray and a night of observation,” the paramedic continued not taking the bait. “Head trauma is nothing to take lightly. The more research being done in this area, the scarier the long-term effects if not treated properly. Take it easy on him, Bruno. It’s obvious you know him.”

“I just don’t want it going to his head. Well, what’s left of it.” Bruno was on fire tonight. I wasn’t in the mood to play along, so I let it go. My head simply hurt too damn much.

“The situation here is still a bit in flux, so it is going to be a while before I am able to leave the scene. Both of the ambulances left with the critical victims and I will have to wait for them to return or when another transport vehicle arrives.”

Bruno took responsibility. “Don’t worry. I can take him. Besides, we need to get an update on the young woman who was found in the basement. She works for Alex. We both want to make sure everything is fine with her. No better way getting the latest information than to talk to the doctors directly. Thanks, Mara. I appreciate your help with this. Say hello to your mom for me.”

“I sure will. Please keep an eye on him until you get him to the hospital and don’t just put him in a car and tell him to drive there himself.”

“Would I do something so neglectful?” Bruno said, faking hurt feelings.

Bruno helped me up and we both walked over to his car. I got in the passenger seat and sat down leaning against the headrest.

Bruno looked at me and asked, “Honestly, how are you doing?” He seemed genuinely concerned.

“I am fine. Just a throbbing headache which will hopefully go away with a couple of shots of some exceptional rum and good night’s sleep. I only want to make sure Jane is doing fine.”

“You and me both, kid. Give me a few minutes to verify a couple of loose ends and to make a quick phone call. We will get to the hospital soon enough. They are no doubt working on her right now, so we would just be waiting there anyway. Be back in a few.” Bruno headed back towards the house.

My next thought was Kelsey. I grabbed my new temporary cell phone out of my pocket and tried calling her. She was working an overnight shift at the hospital, so I didn’t have to worry about waking her up. The phone rang and eventually went to voicemail. I tried again with the same result, instead I decided to send her a couple of texts telling her Jane was safe and to call me right away.

I leaned back against the headrest, closed my eyes and must have instantly fallen asleep. Not necessarily the best thing you can do after head trauma, but the events over the past few days and lack of sleep left me both physically and emotionally drained. What seemed like an instant later, but was closer to fifteen minutes based on the dashboard clock, Bruno opened the door to the driver’s side and got in.

“Are you supposed to be sleeping after getting a concussion?” he asked while starting the car up. “I am not sure because I wasn’t listening to what Mara was telling me to do.”

“What did you find out?” I asked ignoring him like I usually do when he gets this way. Unfortunately, it was becoming more and more frequent, especially when he was around Kelsey.

Bruno pulled away from the crime scene and started driving towards the hospital where Jane was taken. “Quite a bit actually and it’s mostly good news. The numbers I gave you before are all correct. Four dead bad guys who drew their weapons when the team entered the house. There were another two wounded who should make a full recovery, although one is a maybe. Six were arrested, two in the house and four who ran including the one you chased down. A good job of catching him even though I gave you strict instructions to not get out of the car. You are going to have to brush up on your self-defense classes. Looks like you took the worst of the encounter. Detective Frawn said you had his back. He and the other officers won’t forget.

“So there was a total of twelve who were either killed or captured. Add another two you saw leaving the house, which brings the total to fourteen. Ten showed up in the three cars you witnessed arriving, so originally there were four in the house watching Jane. You getting to the house right away and waiting was the best course of action and it provided the best result possible. Without watching the house, we most likely would have sent a couple of uniformed officers who would have been ambushed. Also, observing the house for hours not only let us know there were at least ten people in the house allowing us to have the correct response, but feeding us the information they were likely in the basement was also imperative. The team leader wanted to relay his thanks for the information. It was key in the success of the mission and likely helped save a life of one of the officers involved.”

“Thanks. I am just glad everything worked out fine. What else? I noticed no one has said a word about Tony Kirchoff or the two who kidnapped Jane in the first place.”

“That’s where the bad news comes in. The two who grabbed Jane slipped through the cracks. We sent out a cruiser to look for the two cartel members, but the officers couldn’t find them fast enough. Happens all the time when you are smart and take side streets. There is practically an infinite number of ways to get from one place to another. You have to pick the most heavily traveled and direct routes and hope for the best. It was a long shot anyway, but worth the effort. We will find them. The important thing is Jane was found.”

“What about Tony Kirchoff?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“No sign of him in the house. He must be somewhere else. We are taking everyone who was arrested down to the precinct and questioning them. So far everyone has said they don’t know where Tony is. I tend to believe most of them as the only possibility of getting a lighter sentence is to flip on their boss. One would keep silent but with eight, someone would be talking by now. The slightly good news is they all agreed the house we raided was their only property and where Tony actually lived. As a result, he is likely out of options and on the run now.”

We pulled up to the emergency room entrance and Bruno parked the car as out of the way as possible, being careful not to block any possible traffic. We both got out and walked into the hospital with a few of the people in the waiting room looking at the ever-growing bruise on my face with concern and disgust.

When we got to the main nurses’ station, Bruno flashed his badge and said I needed attention right away. It was my turn to be in charge for once.

“Not until we get an update on Jane and see how she is doing,” I said holding my hand up. Any other course of action was not going to happen if I had anything to say about it.

“You heard the man. Please go find someone who can inform both of us on the current status of Jane Curso, who was brought here earlier by ambulance.” He said the whole thing in his most authoritative cop voice. The nurse gave him a look letting Bruno know she was doing this out of concern for the patient and not as a result of his command. She walked in the back and was gone for a few minutes before returning.

“Please follow me,” she said motioning us to the hallway through a security door she opened with her badge. After a few turns down some random hallways in the hospital, she led us to an empty examination room. “Wait here until the doctor comes and gets you. Here. This is for you.”

She handed me an ice pack which had already been activated and was plenty cold. I pressed it against the left side of my face. It felt surprisingly good and had an almost immediate effect on the pain and swelling. Bruno and I waited in the hallway for close to ten minutes with me holding the ice pack on my face. Bruno was becoming impatient but waited as instructed.

The door to the room finally opened and a doctor walked out to greet us. She was maybe in her late thirties, tall and lean. She wore a white lab coat and dark blue scrubs underneath with comfortable looking athletic shoes. She was likely on her feet for most of every shift, just like Kelsey.

“Hello, I am Dr. Fandel,” she began. “I understand you are interested in an update on Ms. Curso’s condition.”

Bruno held up his badge so the doctor could see he was a cop. “Ms. Curso is a key witness in the murder investigation of three separate people in the past week. It’s critical we talk to her as soon as possible. When will she be conscious?”

Suddenly from the room, we heard Jane say, “Will you just let the two of them in?”

Bruno and I looked quickly at each other and smiled before entering the room. Jane was in a hospital bed leaning up slightly. She had an I.V. bag attached to her as well as a number of wires running from her to various machines monitoring vital signs. She looked groggy but in good shape. No bruises, cuts, or scrapes were visible and nothing else to indicate any major harm had come to her.

“Wow. You look like shit, Alex. What the hell happened to you?” She was doing her best to smile.

“Not much. You should see the other guy,” I said back to her.

“Did you manage to scratch him or did he get away unharmed?”

Bruno spat out a loud chuckle before placing his hand over his mouth, stemming any further outbursts. I really didn’t know why these two were my friends.

“Everyone is happy knowing you are safe and sound. I am not sure what I would have done if something happened to you.” I grabbed her hand and gave it a quick squeeze, letting her know I was serious.

“The entire police force is happy it all worked out well for everyone involved.” It was Bruno’s turn to talk. “No officers were seriously hurt during your rescue operation. Just a scratch on one officer who is just fine. We were able to capture everyone who was at the house when the raid started including the one who ran into Alex’s face with his boot while trying to escape. Unfortunately, we were unable to capture either the two individuals who kidnapped you or Alex’s client, who is behind all of this.”

Regardless of the barb Bruno threw my way, I was glad he wasn’t giving all of the details to Jane about what happened. She didn’t need to know all of the specifics until she was feeling better.

“First off,” Bruno continued, “how are you feeling? Do you know what happened to you?”

“I can best answer that,” the doctor interrupted before Jane could answer. “It looks like she was given some sort of sedative to make her sleep. No hard drugs. Just something to make her pass out. We gave her a mild stimulant to counteract the other drugs in her system.”

“They were getting ready to move me and threatened to hurt me if I made any noises or tried to escape. I agreed but the two who grabbed me didn’t want to take any chances. The last thing I remember before waking up in the hospital is one of them shooting me up with a syringe. How is Kelsey doing?”

Both Bruno and I were instantly on edge. I found my voice first. “Why are you asking?”

She looked back and forth between Bruno and I a few times before answering, obviously confused and concerned.

“Before they drugged me up, they said they were going to move me to be with Kelsey.”

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